Usually it’s the quarterback. Maybe a wide receiver. But a kicker?
The kicker should never stand out. A kicker must always come through in the clutch, and never be the reason for why you lose. But Stefan Demos is an interesting case. Not since Gary Anderson’s single gaffe in the 1998 NFC Championship game has anyone seen this much vitriol directed at a kicker who had been so stellar in his career. The polemical senior had been outstanding in the 2009 season before the infamous Outback Bowl performance that made him the scapegoat for Purple Nation. Playing with a torn labrum during the 2010 campaign, which wasn’t revealed until after the season, affected his performance and continued the perception that he was inconsistent and soft.
If only people would realize how far the Scottsdale, Ariz., native has come in his five years at Northwestern. As far as he’s concerned, Demos came to Northwestern facing the notion that he may have bit off more than he could chew.
“It was hard to move from Arizona to Chicago without knowing anybody or knowing much about Northwestern,” Demos said. “It was a big leap of faith, [it] was really tough to be away from home. Honestly, it was hard being far away but if I hadn’t left, I would have just kept doing the same things as I did in high school.”
With the unfamiliar surroundings and brief adjustment period, Demos had to find a way to cope with the unknown and balance out the distractions. Although the spotlight was focused on each of his field goal attempts, Demos suggested that being a student-athlete might have helped him more.
“When I got onto campus, football kind of became a family,” Demos said. “I’m pretty sure it would have been a lot more difficult if I didn’t play sports.”
And Demos did as well as he could. Entering Northwestern as a freshman kicker, Demos couldn’t win the starting job during his redshirt season from Amado Villareal, and instead was offered the chance to punt for the team. As a punter, Demos consistently averaged 40 yards per punt, but had to adjust to the new mechanics and the new-fangled “rugby” punt that occurred sometimes at random. It wasn’t until last year that he finally secured the kicking job after Villareal’s graduation, and held both positions until freshman punter Brandon Williams relieved the punting duties from him this year.
A lot of change. A lot of commotion. Probably not the best deal for a kicker. C’est la vie.
“I really grew up after five years,” Demos said. “I didn’t even know how to do laundry, how to cook, and now I know how to do all of that now.”
Demos graduated in December with his degree in Communication Studies, and is back at home in Arizona rehabbing from the surgery that repaired his torn labrum and hoping for a shot at a professional career. He’s currently a substitute teacher and waiting to hear back from various NFL teams and other leagues. Like many of his peers, the current NFL lockout means a lot of waiting, and Demos is restless about potential effects on free agency or the potential for invites to tryouts. But after an eventful career that saw him venerated and vilified many times over in the eyes of Wildcat fans, Demos has simple words of advice to his fellow students.
“I would tell guys to just enjoy college as much as you can, to enjoy this freedom,” Demos said. “It’s OK to miss class sometimes, it’s OK to go out and have fun – but get your work done, too, of course. College goes by quicker than you think.”